Words to Live By

Happily married. 41. Infertile/perimenopausal. TV and iPod addict. Transplanted Canadian living in California. {Warning - abundant sarcasm and frequent *gasp* profanity lie herein.}

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Me vs. The Pill

Before I begin I'd like to say it’s been a fruitful week in my little village on The Island, my congratulations go out to Panda and to Suz!

As I waffle and struggle with my body and my emotions on my current situation, here’s my sad little story.

At 18 I decided it was time to join the ranks of the cool kids who went all the way and got a Rx for BCPs. I took the first one in the morning and went about my day with a smug smile on my face, feeling so grown up. The next morning I woke up early and had to pee. I jumped out of bed and had that woozy feeling like I got up too fast. Steadying myself I walked the ten steps to the bathroom and, upon arrival, lost consciousness. The next thing I remember is waking up on the floor looking up at my mother standing over me with a look of horror on her face. What happened?, I asked. You had a seizure, she said.

WHAT DID YOU SAY? I had fainted many times in my life, but this was a different thing, for sure. According to her, I was flopping about on the floor like I was being electrocuted. Thankfully I hadn’t injured myself or even bit my tongue. A trip to the doctor was in order. He was a little dubious of my mother’s recounting of the event (she has a long history of medical exaggeration), so after a few cursory tests he sent me home and told me to let him know if anything else strange happened. Nothing did, at first.

Fast forward two years. I’ve moved in with my boyfriend, a man 10 years older than me, who is a different race, smokes (cigarettes and pot), with little ambition and a minimum-wage job. Yeah, my parents loved him. NOT. Which is of course why I had to move in with him. I went to see the same doc for my annual exam and immediately following the pap, it happened again. This time right on the doctor’s table. I woke up to find nurses holding down my arms and a wooden dowel in my mouth. I didn’t have to ask what happened. Perhaps out of guilt that they didn’t take my mother’s account seriously enough last time, he sent me to a specialist. They went all out with the neurological testing, but found nothing. Despite the lack of findings I was put on the epilepsy drug Dilantin, a barbiturate that’s been around since the 30’s, and told not to go near water alone. I showered in fear for years…but, I digress.

If Dr. Google had been around then I could have prevented all that followed by finding out for myself that “It interacts with a number of other antiepileptic drugs and other drugs, including oral contraceptives.” This singularly important fact was never mentioned to me by any of my doctors. So, you guessed it, about six months later I became pregnant.

That week in March is mostly a blur, it seemed both to be happening very slow and very fast at the same time. At work one day I went to the bathroom and felt just the faintest twinge of nausea. Call it what you will, but at that instant I knew that I was pregnant, despite the fact that this little twinge was the very first symptom I had had. In a panic I called my doctor and found out he was on vacation, but his brother (also a GP) was filling in for him. At the office they confirmed with both a HPT and a blood test. If they told me the HcG level, I don’t remember it and/or wouldn’t have understood what it meant anyway. Dr. Brother cheerfully examined me and said he thought I was about 15 weeks. You could have pushed me over with a feather. How was this possible? My periods were on schedule and normal and I didn’t seem to have gained any weight (this would have been obvious as I was barely 100 pounds at the time).

I left the office in tears and dropped the bombshell on my boyfriend (same guy). He told me it was my decision and he would back me up either way. Great, thanks. You must understand that not only was I young, unmarried and financially unprepared to have a baby, as a sexual abuse survivor I was conditioned to believe this was the absolute WORST thing that could have happened. During those years of abuse there was no greater threat to the secret than getting pregnant. Coupled with my mother’s constant warnings and horror stories from too early an age, even at age 20 all I could feel was sheer terror. I knew there was no possible way that I could keep the baby, but I put up the front I thought I should, pretending to struggle with the decision and gathering what information I could on all the horrible birth defects that the Dilantin undoubtedly had already caused. Once I told my doctor I wanted to terminate I had to go before a review board, since I was already into the second trimester. I don’t remember much of that, only the feeling of immense relief that they approved the D&C because of the drug interaction. If the hospital actually performed tests on the fetus, I have no knowledge of that, nor do I know the sex.

As luck would have it, my boyfriend was out of the town the weekend of the surgery, so I stayed with my parents. They were remarkably understanding and helpful, even my mother. I had no complications and healed quickly, physically at least. Do I regret my decision? No, it was the right decision at the time. Does it still affect me? You bet. More than I can express. Especially now, since I know that was my only shot at it.

But my story isn’t done yet. I was told that since I still had to be on the Dilantin (for how long?), I couldn’t take BCPs. In my mind, that left one alternative: sterilization. I was completely prepared to have my tubes tied right then and there. My boyfriend, clearly more afraid that he wouldn’t be having any more sex than he was with his own reproductive future, offered to have a vasectomy instead of me going through more surgery. And so that’s what happened.

After being on Dilantin for two years straight I was told to stop taking it, just out of the blue. Perhaps a year after the D&C I began to have severe abdominal pain and underwent a lap, which determined I had endometriosis. To treat this problem, yup, you guessed right again, I was put back on BCPs. In December of that year the boyfriend became the fiancé. When he asked me to marry him I just couldn’t say no (even though I knew I should), not after I was the reason he would never have children, not after the vasectomy was completely unnecessary. To this day I feel like I held the scalpel in my own little hand. I know he doesn’t blame me, and has never, ever, even in the fierce battles right before we split up for good, brought it up as being my fault or something he regretted. It’s my own guilt.

I stayed on BCPs for many, many years. Through the first marriage and divorce, and through the first tentative years with the love of my life, through the second wedding day. Then I began the campaign to stop taking them so we could have children. For the first time in my life I actually wanted to get pregnant. And you know the rest of the sad story. It wasn’t meant to be. And here I am, once again taking the little pills, this time to treat perimenopausal symptoms. Funny how something so small has had such a huge impact in my life. Not ha ha funny. If you got his far, thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


I've got several entries whirling about in my head and I promise to get them all out of my brain and onto virtual paper soon. One is about my feelings on staying on or getting off the IF freeway, one is on yet another family skeleton I'm dancing with, and one is the aforementioned tale of Donna vs. The Pill.

I wanted to say how very grateful I am for all the thoughtful comments I've received. All of them have given me food for thought and shown how much all of you "get it".

As a thank you and to make sure my readers don't fall off my radar screen because I haven't posted in a while, I leave you with some lovely images from our recent anniversary trip, and of the now-finished yurt next door.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Return of the Speculum

There's nothing like reuniting with an old friend. Just when I thought I had finished with wand monkeys, there I was again Thursday, my feet in carwash-mitt-covered-stirrups and a speculum allowing my cervix a brief glimpse of the world. Having to have a pap re-done because of a questionable or bad result is one thing, but to have it re-done because the sample was too small for the lab to test is unforgivable. How much skill does it take to scrap enough microscopic cells into a tube?? Apparently, more than you'd think. At least he didn't charge me for it.

I asked Dr. T what we were doing now, am I just going to be on BCPs forever? He carefully read over his notes on my chart and told me to finish off the two starter packs he'd given me then stop and see what happens. Meaning, let's see if you are still having really short or really long cycles and are still waking up in the morning with your legs stuck together from night sweats. Let's see if you are still perimenopausal in two months' time.

I don't know what to think. Part of me wanted him to tell me, Yes, you are now on the Pill and that's the end of the story. I told my hubby what Dr. T said and I swear I could hear a touch of disappointment in his voice. He said, "So now we wait...again."

We will have a conversation about what to do next before I run out of BCPs. I know that if I told him I wanted to stay on the Pill so that I wouldn't have to be worrying about whether it could happen every month for the next 5 years, he would say OK. I know he wants me to be happy and to be freed from the constant cycling of self-monitoring, timing and disappointment. I also know he wants a baby.

Seriously, I am looking for assvice here. Here are the parameters:
** I am 41, DH is 46.
** No success through 8 Clomid/IUI and 3 injectibles/IUI cycles.
** Two high FSH results, the last one was 18.6.
** 4 consecutive months of extremely short or extremely long cycles, then a period that had to be stopped with Provera.
** History of endometriosis.
** No insurance coverage for ART, and no money for DE or IVF. Also, philosophically and emotionally, as well as financially, injectibles/IUI was as far as we were willing to go.

So now we are left to our own devices. I don't need to tell you the success rate for me is less than 5%, with a 50 -60% miscarriage risk. If I wasn't able to conceive with all that help, what makes me think I can do it on my own, given all the above parameters?

I'm waffling between having the piece of mind that we did everything we said we would do and staying on BCPs to help with the perimenopausal and endo symptoms, and moving on; and going off of them and continuing to try on our own and praying for some miracle.

If you were in my shoes, what would you do?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Jagged Little Pill

I took my first BCP yesterday. So far so good, at least physically. A friend asked me today if this was part of a strategy of treatment and I had to admit I didn’t know. Am I just going to be on BCPs now forever? It sure seemed like it when my doc told me to call back when I was running out (he gave me two starter packs) and they would call in another Rx. So…this is it then? The decision has been made for me that it’s time to hang up the stirrups? I’m being told to take BCPs now because it’s the “best and easiest way” to deal with my suddenly perimenopausal cycles and symptoms. I know it will also help to starve whatever endo is still lurking or has formed since my lap in May 2004. Ergo, going off of it after some period of time would seem counter-productive. I just can’t wrap my brain around the fact that now I cannot get pregnant, no matter how perfect the timing might be, or the fact that my one remaining good egg decides it’s time to come floating down the chute, or my husband’s already stellar sperm has a particularly good day.

I was going to tell my long and sordid history with BCPs, as I alluded to in an earlier post, but I think I will leave that for a day in the near future.

Below is a picture from our 4th of July outing, this was taken just before the aforementioned dunking. Hubby is in the background, trying to get back up on his stand-up ski after a fall. He falls a lot. Which is why he wears a helmet. He looks really sexy in a X-games sort of way.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Lovely London

I am so saddened by the news of the terrible terrorist attacks in London. Having been to this wonderful city I know that her spirit won't be broken so easily and she is already mending herself. My thoughts and prayers to everyone there and everyone who has loved ones there, as I do.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hero Worship

I have nothing of real interest to report about my family visit. It was tough to keep them entertained. They are not the type of people who can just sit and relax, they have to have things booked for days in advance. We managed to cram in almost everything they wanted to do, including a day out on the jet skis on Monday. During a concentrated effort to dump my half-brother off the back of my ski I managed to whack my left knee something fierce against the running board. Ouch. It's swollen and bruised, but it was worth it to hear the roar of approval from the watching crowd up on the beach. Initiation is a bitch. He was sullen and dark and moody, and never lifted a finger to help with anything, but otherwise I have to say he wasn't as bad as I envisioned. I often paint things a darker shade than I need to.

When I was a little girl my Dad was my hero. It seemed to me that he knew a little bit about almost everything, and could fix or figure out how anything worked. He took hot baking dishes out of the oven without mitts (due to calloused hands from working at the saw mill). He could drive any kind of vehicle, find his way using just the angle of the sun and make a salad out of roots and berries from along the hiking trail. He knew every type of tree, bird, fish and flower in our world.

As he left yesterday I became aware of how many times over the previous few days I had become frustrated by his apparent lack of common sense. Little things. Like he can't figure out how to open a box of cereal without destroying the top of the box so it can't be closed again properly. Or he makes the coffee too strong every day because he can't or won't read the instructions on the bag about the coffee to water ratio. Or he tries to start one jet ski using the lanyard (key) for a different one. I realize he is getting older. I'm just not used to following my Dad around and putting the milk back in the fridge. I want my hero back.

I guess I should mention that I finally got my period on Monday, 16 days after my last Provera dosage. I'll take my first BCP on Sunday. I'm still in complete denial. It really hasn't hit me yet that from here on out I have absofuckinglutely no chance of getting pregnant. Although...the one and only time I was able to get pregnant was when I was on BCPs. Ah, the irony. That's a story for another day.

In honor of our 5th wedding anniversary, which was last Saturday, here are two of my favorite wedding pictures.